PM must seize the moment – and attack
APPARENT weakness can often be a source of strength. The most famous example of this is the defiant message sent by the French Marshal Ferdinand Foch to his superiors in 1914: ‘My centre is giving way, my right is retreating. Situation excellent, I am attacking.’ He did so, and saved his country from defeat.
The Prime Minister should adopt this as her own private watchword. Her sniping, whispering enemies have thrown everything they have at her. They stood inwardly gloating at her misfortunes last week, vainly hoping that she would quit in despair and save them from stabbing her in the back. To her lasting credit, she did not oblige.
While willing to wound, her foes fear to strike. No wonder. Not one of her critics has shown any sign of being capable of holding the highest office in the land.
On the contrary, their petty irresponsibility at such a time shows only how unfit they are.
Mrs May must take advantage of this. Now is the time to use the considerable authority she actually has, thanks to the feebleness of her attackers and the overarching need to defeat Corbynism.
Now is the time to get rid of unreliable and worn-out Ministers, to bring on new and more loyal talent, and to move those who are more dangerous outside the tent than inside it.
Writing on these pages, the former Tory premier Sir John Major – himself the subject of endless disloyal attacks and sniping till he won a General Election – offers Mrs May some excellent ammunition, while savaging her critics.
The greatest concern of today’s Tory Party is the danger of a Corbyn government, which Sir John describes as ‘the return of a nightmare’ and ‘pure poison to any hope of prosperity’. Politics, he tells the troublemakers, is not a game and their activities must stop, for the sake of the country.
He warns against any wild swerve back to Thatcherite dogmatism, saying the Tories must not let ideology get in the way of common sense, or allow their farRight to dominate the stage and so repel moderate voters.
In a sharp break with the years of austerity, he recommends a giant effort to solve the housing crisis and stimulate the whole economy, borrowing money while it is cheap to do so, unshackling the private sector and sweeping aside much of our restrictive planning law.
At the same time, Sir John recommends a powerful, co-ordinated and sustained effort to teach real skills to the young, casting aside at last the damaging class distinctions between academic and practical qualifications.
Rightly, he says that only by giving hope to the whole nation, every social class and every region and country of the UK, can the Tories re-engage with the electorate and defeat the neo-Marxist Labour threat. And he rightly warns: ‘This can never be achieved while we restrict ourselves only to the drumbeat of Brexit! Brexit! Brexit!’
These are words of hard-won wisdom, from a man who has faced seemingly intractable enemies inside and outside his party, and overcome them. Of course such a plan is risky. But inaction and dithering are far more dangerous.
Mrs May should seize her moment.